How deep was my happiness?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m happiest when buried up to my earlobes in snow, luxuriating in the cold, pristine sparkles, the way others roast themselves on sandy beaches.

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Softly falls the snow.

December and most of January were “dark days of my discontent” to paraphrase Steinbeck who paraphrased Shakespeare. “Dark” because the ground was brown and bare, the temperatures, moderate. Without crisp white snow,  winter is worse than summer in my view.

Kathleen Everett’s blog, “The Course of our Seasons,” moves me. In her, I found someone whose thoughts echo my own. She published this January 16, 2016:

IT IS NOTHING REALLY

Trying to wrest my mood from the dark side,
I cling to the path
well-worn from years of mindless wandering.
that same heaviness plagues my heart,
rending my chest in two.

It is nothing really.

Just the dance on the edge of that cliff—
the one at times I find myself
teetering and scrabbling,
struggling to find firmer ground.

It is nothing really.

Though at this moment
it seems more like quicksand
or a rabbit hole
or a trap door
or something.

But is is nothing,
really.

Kathleen’s poem can be interpreted several ways. When I’m down, I feel that heaviness, see the trap door. Drab, brown weather depresses me. It doesn’t help that my husband is slowly getting more forgetful, more confused, less himself.

Last week’s historic blizzard “Jonas” was a balm for me. Not so Peter. When we lived up north he enjoyed snow nearly as much as I did, well, except the years spring didn’t arrive until mid-May.  We snowshoed, cross-country skied, hiked, moved snow and chopped monster icicles.

I’ve always loved to shovel snow, and Peter loved to scrape down to bare ground. When he finished, the edges of the driveway looked as if the snow had been chiseled away.

Jonas started about five a.m. By nine o’clock a mere four inches lay on the ground. I shoveled a path to the backyard for the dog.

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Nobby loves snow too.

A cup of coffee later, I went out front to tackle the increasing depths.  Peter wouldn’t be far behind, I thought. I made a walking path to the street, another along the sidewalk, a third from street to front door for the mailman. Still no Peter. No mailman either until Monday, though our newspaper lady delivered.

Peter finally emerged Saturday afternoon to scrape the paths I’d made. Sunday morning, glorious and sunny, I took on the rest of the driveway. Thankfully, the snow was like crystallized feathers. Peter got into his old routine. He scraped and sliced, swept and brushed. Together we attacked the icebergs the plows had shoved in our way.

Later, while he Skyped with a friend in England, I heard him say, “No, only a few inches…some places got more, but not here.”

The depth of my happiness was diminished.

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Snow-capped sedum.

Header caption: Barely icicles, cold splinters are no northern widow-makers.
“It is nothing really” Kathleen G. Everett ©2011-16

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

This is the way he makes our bed.

Peter helps around the house…creatively. He can no long fix or build things like he used to, so he’s invented chores and ways to do them.

He scuffs at embryonic maple leaves and tiny pear blossom petals — they hitch rides inside attached to Nobby — off the family room rug with the edge of his shoe, then picks them up and carries them to the wastebasket. Using the hand vac would be quicker and do a better job, but he likes his shoe method.

After I’ve done my weekly run-through downstairs with the vacuum cleaner, Peter straightens the fringe on the rugs, sometimes with the dog’s wire brush, sometimes with a comb, once with my pastry fork!  I don’t care whether the fringe is untangled or not, but the pastry fork is off limits!

My husband has an ongoing obsession with picking up the tiny twigs that snap off the trees. He mounds them into piles in the woods or crams them into an empty birdseed bucket that I dump when he’s not looking. He polishes the kitchen countertops until they gleam, but he doesn’t move appliances out of the way to do it.  There’s no doubt where the coffeemaker, knife block, tea kettle, and mixer live because the unbuffed areas tell the story.

I’m usually up and out at least an hour before Peter is, but when I come back from my walk he’ll have “made the bed.” That is, his side of the bed is smoothed, pillows plumped, spread straightened. My side remains as it was when I crept out — strangled pillows, tossed quilt, crumpled sheets.

When I hang laundry out back, I often ask him to bring it in. He brings his jeans, his shirts, his socks. His excuse for not bringing my clothes, our sheets or our dishtowels is, “I didn’t know you wanted them!”

That excuse, and the novel bed-making, has ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder, fka Asperger Syndrome) written all over it. It’s nothing to do with dementia.

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Peter charms this lass.

I’ve often said, my husband’s dementia is much easier for me to deal with than ASD. Neither can be “cured,” but ASD sometimes manifests as what I call “The Mt. Rushmore Effect” —stone-faced, remote, cold. And yet, the man I fell in love with all those years ago can be funnier, sweeter, and more charming than anyone I’ve ever met.

I’m sure Peter thinks his ASD is a non-issue since he’s lived with it successfully all his life; dementia, though, has foiled him and he does not go gently.

An excellent “Masterpiece Theater” series*, “Doc Martin”, makes both of us laugh no matter how many times we watch it. The Doc (Martin Clunes) is a highly intelligent surgeon who has a blood phobia and serious relationship issues with his patients, and with Louisa (Caroline Katz), the woman he tries to marry. Although sometimes cringe-inducing, the series is doubly funny to me, first, for its pure comedy, and second, because Doc Martin is my husband all over again. Peter doesn’t see himself, while I relate to Louisa’s devotion to and frustration with the man she adores.

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* “Doc Martin” is also available on Netflix.

Header photo: All pictures, Middleton Place Gardens, North Carolina, 2011.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

The day after the shortest day.

It’s that time of year when even the faintest skiff of snowflakes causes visions of sleds and snowmen to dance in my head. Haul out the snow shovels, check the windshield wiper fluid, find the mittens and mate them. Baby, it’s cold outside.

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Christmas is just five days away, and the weatherman has hinted that there’s a slight chance we’ll have a white one. Is that Bing Crosby crooning? Do you hear what I hear?

As always, I can hear my dad saying, “Shortest day of the year. Won’t be long until time to cut the grass.” He said that for as long as I can remember. Maybe he was onto something. Now that I’m certified elderly, the days fly by so quickly that it really won’t be long to cut the grass. Heck, son-in-law Martin just mowed his for the last time this year a week ago!

In June, Dad always remarked on the summer solstice too. He was nothing if not set in his ways.

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In my email this morning came a reminder of another sort — one close to my mind and heart — about solstices.

Today is the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year. But we’re already looking ahead to the summer solstice and The Longest Day®, an event on June 21, 2015, to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association.”

The message goes on to say, It will be “a day of sunrise-to-sunset activity to symbolize he challenging journey of those facing Alzheimer’s disease.” 

This is brand new information to me, but I’m thinking ahead, just as my dad always did, to June 21 and what I might be able to do on The Longest Day®. Read more about it here. 

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A sunrise mimics the Alzheimer’s Association purples.

 

I published this post yesterday, December 21, 2014, on my other blog, “Wherever you go, there you are.
2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Yet another good thing.

My husband has always been a picky eater. He has always insisted he is selective, not picky. As long as there’s meatpotatoesveg on his plate, he’ll clean it, he says. If there’s gravy, so much the better, even lumpy gravy! He doesn’t like things that sound as if they were bought at a health food store — quinoa, wheat germ, tofu, edamame — although he has eaten all of them unknowingly, and liked them.

The list of things Peter will not eat is varied: tomatoes, the teeniest, eensiest bit of fat, cucumbers, pasta, rice, cheesecake, peanut butter, mac and cheese, cornbread, dill pickles, quiche, cranberries…I could go on.

Nowdays, because he doesn’t — can’t — cook anymore, he eats what’s put in front of him. This change allows me to fix meals I like more often instead of always catering to the meatpotatoesveg dictum.

Used to be, if I fixed pasta, which I love, he’d mutter and growl. Now we have it once a week or so and he doesn’t say a word. Maybe he doesn’t remember he never liked it, or maybe he likes it now, I don’t know. Other meals, I’ll sometimes fix two green veg, no potatoes, and substitute beans for meat. Not. A. Whimper.

Recently I prepared turkey cutlets and quartered red potatoes marinated in lemon juice, rosemary, and olive Screen shot 2014-10-30 at 6.05.01 PMoil. Cranberries I cooked in hard cider, with a smushy apple, and a bit of sugar. Yummy. I nearly fell off my chair when Peter not only cleaned his plate, but carefully scraped out the tiny bowl of cranberries I’d given him and served himself some more!

He pointed to the bowl and said, “Are they good for me?”

I nodded, he smiled, then licked his spoon.

Thanksgiving is upon us. Cranberries!

Another good thing to be thankful for — check

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2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.